Johns Hopkins University
Human movement plays a key role in economies and development, the delivery of services, and the spread of infectious diseases. However, it remains poorly quantified partly because reliable data are often lacking, particularly for low-income countries. The most widely available are migration data from human population censuses, which provide valuable information on relatively long timescale relocations across countries, but do not capture the shorter-scale patterns, trips less than a year, that make up the bulk of human movement. Census-derived migration data may provide valuable proxies for shorter-term movements however, as substantial migration between regions can be indicative of well connected places exhibiting high levels of movement at finer time scales, but this has never been examined in detail. Here, an extensive mobile phone usage data set for Kenya was processed to extract movements between counties in 2009 on weekly, monthly, and annual time scales and compared to data on change in residence from the national census conducted during the same time period. We find that the relative ordering across Kenyan counties for incoming, outgoing and between-county movements shows strong correlations. Moreover, the distributions of trip durations from both sources of data are similar, and a spatial interaction model fit to the data reveals the relationships of different parameters over a range of movement time scales. Significant relationships between census migration data and fine temporal scale movement patterns exist, and results suggest that census data can be used to approximate certain features of movement patterns across multiple temporal scales, extending the utility of census-derived migration data.